Our Mission

The mission of the Raleigh Historic Development Commission is to identify, preserve, protect, and promote Raleigh’s historic resources.

Rochester Heights Historic District

Developed between 1957 and 1964

A post-WWII subdivision built for African Americans

One-and-a-half miles southeast of downtown Raleigh, Rochester Heights is one of a small number of developments completed for African Americans during segregation. The thirty-nine acre development, built between 1957 and 1964, features a largely intact collection of post-World War II homes. Lots range in size from ¼ to ⅓ of an acre, with most houses parallel to the street. Many of the homes feature extensively landscaped yards. 

The district’s dominant architectural style is Ranch: one-story homes with low-slung, horizontal configurations, side-gable roofs, large picture windows, patios or porches, and carports or garage bays. There are two Split-Levels in the Rochester Heights, each incorporating typical characteristics: a one-story wing intersecting a two-story wing, a multi-light picture window, entry stoop, first-story garage, wide central brick chimney, and recessed entry. Architectural details such as tripartite windows, brick planters, inverted triangular porch posts, brick or stone half-walls on the façade, and plywood board and batten siding continue to reflect the district’s development period.

Rochester Heights developed on land owned by Anna Roberta Lightner and Lawrence Eugene Lightner, brother of Clarence E.Lightner, Raleigh’s first black mayor. In 1954, Lightner sold the property to M.C. Garner of the Phillips Building Corporation. Today the Lightner family cemetery is still located at the entrance to Rochester Heights, although it is not part of the historic district.

Platted in 1956 and 1958, Rochester Heights was developed within a framework of covenants that ensured uniform lot sizes, setbacks, layout, and building and outbuilding sizes and types.

A number of Rochester Heights’ later homes were built from plans published by Key Homes, a now-defunct house plan company responsible for many Raleigh residences.

Rochester Heights’ streets were named for famous African-Americans of the time, including Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Pearl Bailey, Larry Doby, and Clayton "Peg Leg" Bates. Many prominent black families lived in the development, including Samuel Mitchell, an attorney who helped lead the fight to integrate Wake County schools, and North Carolina Senator Vernon Malone. Still, the development was economically diverse, home to educators, physicians, government workers, clergy, and laborers.  

A good example of a post-WWII suburban subdivision and one of four Raleigh developments built for African Americans, Rochester Heights is notable for its use of modern housing styles and continues to exhibit a high degree of architectural integrity.


Rochester Heights in the 21st Century

Photo by Southeastern Preservation ServicesPhoto by Southeastern Preservation Services Photo by Southeastern Preservation ServicesPhoto by Southeastern Preservation Services


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